Former Israeli ambassador weighs in on investigation into alleged war crimes by Israel in Palestinian territories

This week, the International Criminal Court announced that is will investigate alleged Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian territories. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized the move, saying the court has "no jurisdiction over this matter." Israel's former Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon joined "CBSN AM" to discuss the investigation and the future of U.S.-Israel relations.

Video Transcript

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: The International Criminal Court is launching an investigation into alleged war crimes by Israel in the Palestinian territories as well as alleged war crimes by Palestinian militant groups like Hamas. In a statement the ICC's outgoing chief prosecutor said that the probe would be conducted, quote, "independently, impartially, and objectively, without fear or favor."

So here to discuss it is Israel's former ambassador to the UN Danny Danon. Thank you so much for joining us this early in the morning. You know, Ambassador, you called the ICC decision to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel and the Palestinians-- you called it outrageous and biased. Why do you say that?

DANNY DANON: Well, first, the very fact that they put Israel, a democracy, together with Hamas, a terrorist organization speaks for itself. It's a political decision in order to embarrass Israel. We are very proud of our democracy. We are proud of the morality of the military forces in Israel. And we have our own legal system to investigate in cases where we have wrongdoing in the military.

But to actually take Israel to the ICC, it shows the hidden agenda. And it's part of the effort of the Palestinians to embarrass Israel, to apply diplomatic terrorism instead of actually negotiating with us, like we are doing with many countries in the region.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: Should Israel cooperate with any investigation?

DANNY DANON: I think we will have to debate it in the government. In one hand, we have answers for everything. I served at the UN for five years. And whenever people put ridiculous allegations, I told them, give me the facts, give me the incident. I will give you an answer. And we did that. So we have answers.

But I would recommend to the government not to cooperate because we will look at this body. We know it's a corrupted organization. They are not really looking for justice. They're looking to gain a political winnings against Israel. That's why I would recommend the government not to cooperate with the ICC.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: So then, Ambassador, obviously, the follow up question is, if there's nothing to hide, then why not go along with an investigation?

DANNY DANON: Because sometimes when you look at an organization and you look at what they're doing there-- we had the same thing with the Goldstone report a few years ago. And we decided not to cooperate with it. And then years later, the judge who headed the committee itself, he admitted that it was biased and they had a hidden agenda.

So I think we should give answers to everybody. And we are doing it. And we have to remember that our soldiers protected our borders from terrorists. That was the main issue back then. And now you come in to investigate the soldiers who protected our community from terrorists. It is outrageous. We will support our military. And we do not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: Ambassador, let's talk about the current US administration's reaction to this. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday to express US support for Israel. This comes as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken released a statement expressing US opposition to the ICC investigation, saying, quote, "The ICC has no jurisdiction over this matter." And that the US will continue to uphold its, quote, "strong commitment to Israel and its security, including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly." Your reaction.

DANNY DANON: We welcome the decision of the new administration. That is the right way to deal with the ICC.

By the way, the ICC tried to also start an investigation against the US. But the US pushed back. And they dropped was the case. I hope it will be the same with Israel.

And I will tell you frankly, we have no problem with criticism. If anyone wants to criticize Israel to demand answers, we are ready to answer. But when we see that biased, and I would say even anti-Semitism in the remarks of the ICC. For example, when you look at the fact that they actually blame Jews who live in Jerusalem for committing a crime, this is ridiculous. And that's why I think the US approach is the right approach. And we expect our allies, not only the US, to stand with us and to push back against the ICC initiative.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: So onto another topic, President Biden has said that he wants the US to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal, pending more negotiations. How will this impact US relations with Israel, do you think, if a deal is made?

DANNY DANON: So that's a crucial issue for us. We believe that the agreement was a bad agreement back then in 2015. And it's still a bad agreement because today, we have a new situation in the region. Iran is much more advanced in their ambitions to achieve nuclear capabilities.

I would advise the administration to call the allies of the US first, not only Israel, but all the allies of the US to consult with them before re-entering that agreement. For Israel, it's a major issue. And we will not compromise our security. We will keep all options on the table. And I hope that the US will not re-enter the agreement as it is.

It is a bad agreement. When you look at it, issues like inspectors, issues like ballistic missile tests, sponsors of terrorism-- Iran spends billions on terrorism. All those issues must be addressed before the US enters the agreement.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: Before we let you go ambassador, I have to ask you about Israel and the coronavirus pandemic. Israel has received a lot of praise for how efficiently it was able to distribute the coronavirus vaccines. And now we are hearing that coronavirus vaccinations will also continue with Palestinians working in Israel.

Israel also received some criticism for sending vaccinations overseas when there were Palestinians who are in need. Can you sort of weigh in on this?

DANNY DANON: First, let's make it clear because we saw some outrageous allegations about Israel. In Israel, we vaccinate everybody, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. I think actually, if you look at the map of the area, I think in Israel, you have more Muslims who got vaccinated than the entire countries put together. We don't make any distinction in our country. Everybody's equal.

Regarding the Palestinians, according to the agreement we signed with them in Oslo, they run their own health system. We can help them. And we are eager to have them because we have an interest that they would get vaccinated because they come in, they walk in Israel, there's ongoing transactions. And we want them to get vaccinated.

But again, they focus more on blaming Israel for not giving them vaccines. But I ask you today, why don't they spend their money, their funds on purchasing vaccines? Instead of that, they are actually spending $150 million a year paying salaries for convicted terrorists. So they should take the budget they have, spent it on purchasing vaccine. And we are more than eager to help them to do it because it serves our cause as well.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: Ambassador Danny Danon, thank you so much.

DANNY DANON: Thank you very much.